Previously it seemed like wanting to cut down migration was a cornerstone argument for Brexit to happen. But despite the UK fully leaving the EU and the Conservative Party still being in power, the UK has actually seen record migration levels in 2022.

What’s the reason behind this? Why didn’t the Conservatives cut down net migration as they’ve originally planned on doing?

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    @JonathanReez it seems "take back control" is perfectly consistent with more immigration. When you have control, you can increase it. Talking heads saying they have "concerns" isn't the same as stating they have a plan to decrease it. Was there an plan to reduce it?
    – H2ONaCl
    Commented Aug 28, 2023 at 5:37
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    Please provide some examples of Brexit supporters using a reduction in migration as a "cornerstone argument" for Brexit.
    – phoog
    Commented Aug 28, 2023 at 8:28
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    @phoog a popular example is this picture used during the Brexit campaign. I think reducing some kind of immigration was used as an argument for controlling the borders during the campaign. Implicitly Brexiteers were especially targeting Muslim countries, with Syria and IS in people's minds at the time. Whether Brexiteers actually intended to reduce immigration in general, I don't know (it's not even sure they knew themselves).
    – Erwan
    Commented Aug 28, 2023 at 10:16
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    @H2ONaCl, the UK already had the right to increase immigration. It would have been totally disingenuous to argue that additional control was needed to admit more migrants, and the argument was not generally understood that way.
    – Steve
    Commented Aug 28, 2023 at 18:35
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    @H2ONaCl, yes but that kind of control was already present, so it cannot be the relevant control which was "taken back" - in other words, it cannot be the kind of control being discussed in the Brexit referendum. The Tory party had also had an explicit policy just a few years ago to reduce immigration to "tens of thousands", to further frame the interpretation.
    – Steve
    Commented Aug 29, 2023 at 14:56

4 Answers 4

  1. Foreign students. Nearly half the rise in net migration comes from foreign students arriving. This is, in part, a Covid effect, as the number of foreign students leaving at the end of their course is depressed as a hangover from covid. The Government has an explicit policy of increasing this type of migration.
  2. There is an influx of Ukrainian and Hong-Kong passport holders. These account for a large number of humanitarian visas offered.
  3. There is continued high demand for skilled health-care sector workers, that isn't being filled by British workers. These are being actively recruited from overseas. There is also probably a "hangover" effect. Many such workers would leave after a few years, but those that would be leaving now, never came because of covid. This creates a spike in the net immigration figures.

So to decrease the number of immigrants, the Government would have to:

  1. Deprive the universities of a major source of income, or
  2. Refuse to honour the humanitarian duties owed to Hong Kong Chinese and Ukrainian people, or
  3. Do significant damage to the NHS and leave many people unable to access healthcare.

As none of these is deemed acceptable, the Government has had to allow long-term migration to increase.

  • I guess there's also 4: stop issuing permanent residency/citizenships, ensuring that the immigrants go back home after they're no longer needed. Commented Aug 28, 2023 at 21:22
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    ... Sure, when Russia withdraws from Ukraine, China becomes democratic, and the UK trains enough nurses you'll let me know. (I'm not holding my breath)
    – James K
    Commented Aug 28, 2023 at 22:05
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    @JonathanReez to a certain extent that already happens for students. Time in education doesn’t count towards indefinite leave to remain and the “free” (well, actually, there’s a fee) Graduate visa route only gives 2 or 3 years in the country (while also not counting for ILR).
    – origimbo
    Commented Aug 28, 2023 at 23:13
  • @origimbo in practice there is still a route towards staying permanently for people who want it, quite unlike (say) Gulf countries Commented Aug 29, 2023 at 20:31
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    "There is continued high demand for skilled health-care sector workers, that isn't being filled by British workers": maybe if the NHS got that £350 million a week they were promised they could pay enough to motivate the native population to work there.
    – phoog
    Commented Aug 29, 2023 at 20:47

Well, migration from the EU was reduced; in fact it became negative:

enter image description here

So you could say Brexit did work as intended in that regard. But non-EU migration has vastly overtaken that, for reasons that are explained in James's answer.

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    But not just for the reasons given in @James K's answer. As many Remainers pointed out in 2016, the immigration level is predicated on demand. All that Brexit is likely to do is to exchange Poles for Pakistanis.
    – WS2
    Commented Oct 2, 2023 at 15:28

Fertility rates in UK have long been well below the 2.1 sustainable replacement rate (source). It was 1.63 children per woman in 2020. As a result, the country needs to accept either population decline or immigration, whatever they think to be the lesser evil.

While in general up to them, maybe they think immigration is the lesser evil. The existing policies may be more targeted to select immigrants that are safe for the country, integrate into society well and have skills valuable for economy. They are not intended to prevent immigration entirely.

  • You could do the math and check if the record immigration is compensating for deaths outweighing births of UK citizens? If yes, it would kind of supporting your theory. However, additional quotes by conservative politicians about the topic would further substantiate it. Commented Oct 2, 2023 at 18:26
  • In order to improve this answer, the "maybe" and the "may" in the second paragraph should be confirmed by looking up sources that confirm that these are indeed true.
    – Philipp
    Commented Oct 4, 2023 at 6:57

The essential reason is that the main parties are run predominantly by liberals who are anti-worker and addicted to cheap foreign labour.

The Conservative Party does have anti-migrant elements, but they are not generally in charge of policy.

It is difficult to disentangle Brexit and Covid, as they both occured at roughly the same time, but there was a significant loss of (particularly temporary) migrant labour due to Covid/Brexit.

For a short while, full employment ensued (but without any explicit Keynesian policy or intention), with wages rising keenly in low-wage occupations where EU migrants had come to predominate (but were now excluded by default), and trade union activity soaring.

To douse all of this and return the economy to attack mode against workers, the floodgates were reopened on a massive scale again and work visas handed out liberally.

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    Can you provide a few sources for your various claims? So far it reads like an opinion piece.
    – quarague
    Commented Aug 29, 2023 at 8:50
  • @quarague, the problem is that they don't say most of this out loud. They don't say "we're anti-worker", they say "we're helping business". And then if I provide a source showing they did say they're helping business, the claim that this is equivalent to being anti-worker may still be regarded as unsourced. I can certainly reference the surge in numbers though: migrationwatchuk.org/news/2022/08/25/…
    – Steve
    Commented Aug 29, 2023 at 10:22
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    Voting to Delete - You can't just generalise that the reasons are "liberals" (which is also illogical when you are talking about the Conservative Party in UK). Other parts of your answers sound plausible, but without sources to back it appear to be simply opinions. Please improve your answer by removing blanket, unproven generalisation and by citing sources to back your other claims.
    – sfxedit
    Commented Aug 30, 2023 at 17:47
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    This does not provide an answer to the question. To critique or request clarification from an author, leave a comment below their post. - From Review
    – sfxedit
    Commented Aug 30, 2023 at 17:48
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    @Steve You are making the cognitive error of over-generalization - using one piece of data, or just a few data points to form broad conclusions. Hitler, a Christian, hated Jews. Does it mean all Christians hate Jews? Just because Osama, a muslim, is a terrorist, are all muslims terrorists? Secondly, if you do believe some "liberal" politician in the conservative party is responsible for some policy that has increased immigrants in UK, then name them, provide supporting sources, and make such an argument. Saying "liberals" are responsible isn't a fact but a lazy opinion - back it up.
    – sfxedit
    Commented Aug 30, 2023 at 20:18

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